After losing nearly two years of at-bats, infielder Garin Cecchini is more than happy to put in some overtime in the Arizona Fall League.
As a senior at Barbe High School in Lake Charles, La., Cecchini projected as a possible first-round pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. But an ACL tear in his right knee and questions about his signability dropped him to the fourth round, where he signed with the Red Sox for $1.31 million. When Cecchini finally made his pro debut in 2011, it ended after 32 games when an errant pitch broke his right wrist.
Cecchini has stayed healthy and sprayed line drives all over the diamond since. In 2012, he batted .305/.394/.433 at Class A Greenville and earned Red Sox Minor League Baserunner of the Year honors after stealing 51 bases in 57 attempts. Cecchini followed it by hitting .322/.443/.471 this season while splitting time between Class A Advanced Salem and Double-A Portland. He posted the highest on-base percentage in the Minors, and he is ranked by MLB.com as Boston's No. 7 prospect.
Cecchini's spending the fall with the Surprise Saguaros, trying to hone himself into an all-around player. He batted just .250/.391/.308 in his first 14 AFL games, but said he's not worried about his numbers.
"It's not all about the stats here," said Cecchini, who went 1-for-2 with a homer in the Fall Stars Game on Saturday. "It's really trying to develop into the defensive player you want to be, the offensive player, baserunning, being a complete player to help the big league team win."
Cecchini has the tools and savvy to contribute in all phases of the game, but he stands out most with his bat. He's a pure hitter with a smooth left-handed stroke, and he excels at managing at-bats, recognizing pitches and controlling the strike zone. At 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, Cecchini has the strength and bat speed to hit for average power if he makes some adjustments to his approach.
Cecchini has enjoyed the challenge of the AFL, where he has faced craftier pitchers than he saw in the lower Minors.
"My first at-bat, I don't even get a fastball my first pitch, it's a changeup," Cecchini said. "Of course I'm not looking for that my first pitch in the Arizona Fall League, but that was the difference from what I've noticed from Low A, High A to Double-A. They're not going to groove you fastballs every time you get a hitter's count, so you've got to try to work your at-bats."
Cecchini is an average runner whose speed plays up on the bases. While he won't be a huge threat at the Major League level, he should be good for double-digit steals. Cecchini has the arm strength for third base, though he's still learning the nuances of the hot corner after playing shortstop as an amateur.
Cecchini has excellent baseball instincts, which is no surprise considering his family. His father, Glenn, has coached six 5-A state championship teams in 28 seasons at Barbe, where his mother, Raissa, serves as an assistant. Cecchini's brother, Gavin, is a shortstop who went to the Mets as the 12th overall pick in the 2012 Draft.
Red Sox hitters in the AFL
• Second baseman Mookie Betts built on a breakout season by earning a spot in the Fall Stars Game. Signed for $750,000 as a fifth-round pick out of a Tennessee high school in 2011, he batted .314/.417/.506 with 15 homers and 38 steals (in 42 attempts) between Class A and Class A Advanced this season. Betts is a polished hitter with surprising pop and the speed to be an asset on the bases and in the field.
• Middle infielder Derrik Gibson is one of the best athletes in Boston's system, but his bat has stalled and he's a career .243/.334/.312 hitter in six pro seasons. A second-round choice from a Delaware high school in 2008, he has plus speed and is a versatile defender, but he lacks discipline and pop at the plate.
• First baseman Travis Shaw's father, Jeff, was a former All-Star reliever. A ninth-round selection from Kent State in 2011, Shaw offers power and patience at the plate, but he has batted just .222 since reaching Double-A in August 2012.
Red Sox pitchers in the AFL
• Right-hander Keith Couch has progressed from his start as a 13th-round pick from Division II Adelphi (N.Y.) in 2010 to Triple-A Pawtucket this year. He's a sinker/slider pitcher who usually works in the upper 80s with his fastball. Couch's best asset is his control.
• A finesse left-hander, Miguel Pena depends on his command of three pitches, the best of which is his changeup. A sixth-round pick from San Jacinto (Texas) CC in 2011, he served a 50-game suspension this season after a second positive test for a drug of abuse.
• A late addition to the Fall Stars Game, right-hander Noe Ramirez keeps hitters off balance with his herky-jerky delivery and above-average changeup. The 2011 fourth-round choice from Cal State Fullerton also throws an upper-80s fastball and a short slider.
• Right-hander Pete Ruiz has an average fastball and misses some bats with his curveball, giving him a chance to make it to the big leagues as a middle reliever. He was a 2008 10th-rounder from Santa Barbara (Calif.) City College.
Jim Callis is a senior writer for MLB.com.